The 2004 film ‘Spartan’ has been largely forgotten, but the thriller will always have a place in history as the film that made Val Kilmer hate David Mamet.
A viral Twitter thread sparked renewed interest in the film’s DVD commentary track, in which Kilmer repeatedly insults its director Mamet for what Kilmer saw as pompous and occasionally abusive behavior on set. The film, which focused on the search for the president’s kidnapped daughter, was the first collaboration between Mamet and Kilmer. Based on the actor’s comments, it’s no surprise that it ended up being his last.
“It’s cruel,” Kilmer said of Mamet. “He hates actors, having himself failed in the profession. There were a lot of tears on set. It was tough, because you would play a tough guy and he would destroy you. But even in front of everyone, he wouldn’t do it in the trailer. I hate it.”
In addition to his personal grievances, Kilmer also said he disagreed with the playwright-turned-director’s artistic choices.
“He writes in a lot of particular and sometimes complicated rhythms,” he said. “That’s why he’s so frustrated when he cuts out all the good stuff. He upsets his own rhythm. I don’t get it, except that he needs help.
Kilmer often criticized Mamet for surrounding himself on set with friends who would never disagree with him. The actor said his frustration with Mamet’s nepotism reached a boiling point when he had to play opposite Mamet’s rabbi in a key scene.
“That’s David’s rabbi,” he said. “I’m not even kidding. Sounds like he’s joking, but that guy I just shot is David’s rabbi. You see, this is what I mean by ‘sick’. I wouldn’t want him to shoot my intern in my film. Why he make me shoot his rabbi of him? And why is his rabbi Irish?
Kilmer says Mamet was so concerned about his perception within the crew that his assistant produced and distributed a weekly newsletter documenting the director’s finest moments on set.
“We had this thing called the Spartan Times, which was a newsletter produced every week by David’s assistant, basically to make David look good in front of the crew. So he would follow him around and write down anything funny that he said, or make up things that he could attribute to David.
While many of Kilmer’s criticisms of Mamet point to profound character flaws, he also found time to give superficial jabs to Mamet’s appearance.
“What I find amazing is his courage,” she said. “To still wear a cap in 2004, you have to have guts.”
Check out Kilmer’s entire thread of complaints about Mamet below.